How the Myth of Job Experience Hamstrings the Hiring Process

The Myth of Job Experience

Experience is supposed to be the best teacher. But if that is true, why does this scenario play itself out over and over again?

A hiring manager stares at 75 resumes submitted for a job that should have been filled yesterday. The manager reads them, looking for the best experience, skills, and credentials. She interviews six people – one is outstanding! He is personable, outgoing, and has four years experience in a similar job – hired!

Six months later he is gone, costing the company about $50,000 including the loss of a customer. How could a candidate who seemed so right turn out to be so wrong? She thinks, “This just doesn’t make sense” (Weinstein, 2012).

Actually it makes a whole lot of sense for several reasons.

First, 60% (or more) of resumes contain erroneous information like inaccurate job titles, tenure dates, and work descriptions. Second, candidates pay professionals to polish their resumes and make sure they use the right words – the ones that electronic scanners look for and hiring managers respond to, not the ones that actually describe their previous work. And third, managers often assume that experience listed on a resume reflects some level of skill and proficiency. But holding a job for four years doesn’t necessarily translate to a better employee – ever know someone who did just enough to keep a job for four years?

Some companies have stopped collecting resumes and here is why. A study of hiring managers found that when they screened a resume, they were looking for job titles similar to the title of the job they were trying to fill. The problem is that a job title provides no information about the content of the job duties or the quality of the work done by the candidate. CareerBuilder CEO Mark Ferguson has strong feelings about job titles: “Job titles are a ‘…needless limitation based on…information …that is essentially arbitrary…’”

Hiring someone with experience doesn’t mean they will perform better or stay longer in the job. A candidate with no experience, after training and good supervision, is just as likely to succeed as a person with two or more years of experience (Greenberg and Greenberg, 1980 ). In fact, when managers use experience as a hiring decision factor, they get the same result as they would if they hired using random selection. Not the best hiring process. So what is the best way to make a better hiring decision if job experience doesn’t matter?

To hire the right employee, find out if their strengths match job requirements. The best employee in a data entry position prefers routine work that requires attention to detail and accuracy. Sales reps need different qualities: verbal fluency, the ability to sense customer reaction, and the drive to resolve problems quickly. The best customer service rep will enjoy talking to people and solving different kinds of problems every day. A good manager makes good decisions, can persuade employees to work effectively and possess the personality traits for coaching and leading.

The fastest and most accurate way to identify candidate strengths? Best-in-class companies use a valid pre-hire assessment test to identify which applicants have what it takes to be a high performer in the specific job. Using pre-employment assessments as the first step in the hiring process speeds up the hiring process, increases the accuracy of hiring decisions, and reduces hiring costs by tagging the candidates who have the characteristics needed for success in the job and the company.